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The Bullhorn, Issue #036 -- Monthly Motivator for March 2009
March 15, 2009

Just the right push to succeed!

Strengthen Your Heart

Our health can often be summarized by the condition of our hearts. And if you want to strengthen your heart, you’ll need to know where you’re starting. Do you know your resting heart rate? Do you know what your heart rate is when you’re exercising?

The stronger our hearts are the more efficient it can pump blood through our body. The stronger our heart beats, the less frequent it needs to beat to accomplish the same thing (i.e. fewer pump strokes for the same amount of blood flow). The average resting heart rate for non-athletes is said to be 70 for males and 75 for females. And as a point of comparison, Lance Armstrong’s resting heart rate was once measured at 32 beats per minute (bpm). But for the rest of us mortals, we should just strive for self-improvement!

The key to strengthen your heart is exercise. This added stress will cause our hearts to beat faster to help us accomplish the workout. According to the American Heart Association, this increased heart rate should be between 50-85% of our Maximum Heart Rate (which is 220 minus our age). For example, a 50 year-old would have an MHR of 170 bpm and an aerobic range of 85 – 136 bpm.

One way to tell if you are in an aerobic range is to try to maintain a conversation. If you are gasping for air, you are not in a sustainable aerobic range (i.e. Slow down!). Another way is to get a heart rate monitor. Many running watches come with heart rate monitors now-a-days and they’re quite a handy piece of gear. In fact, I just did a recent product review for Tech4o on their Trail Leader Pro running watch, and it has a very comfortable chest strap. It also gave a nice HR / MHR % display on the watch that was better than some of their competitors on the market. Check it out if you’re looking for a new running watch.

The plan to strengthen your heart is a lot like our fitness plan. First, figure out where you are by measuring your resting heart rate and aerobic heart rate. Continue to measure your progress as you gradually implement your exercise routine. You’ll notice improvement as your resting heart rate lowers, your aerobic-zone heart rate lowers, and your recovery time shortens. These are all good signs that your heart is getting stronger.

In addition to telling us when our heart is getting stronger, our heart rate can also tell us things like when we’re under other stresses, when we’re sick or fighting infection, or when we just need a day off from exercise. Listen to your heart and you’ll be able to measure progress in another way!

Stop the Hunger!

Losing weight usually means eating less - and eating less means we need to stop the hunger. There are many artificial means out there that try to take your money with claims of appetite reduction. I’m skeptical. I’d exhaust all of the natural ways before you buy a pill or other chemicals. Health and fitness goals are hard work. Gradually weave these tips into your routine and you’ll find yourself less inclined to pig out at the next family BBQ!

  • Slow down!: In our light-speed society this goes against every influence that surrounds us – fast food, high speed internet, instant messages, and meals on the go. But if give ourselves a chance to chew the food, enjoy the food, and have a few smaller portions, we may give our brains a chance to say…enough...before our stomach says, “No Vacancy”.

  • Exercise: It’s often been said that we eat more when stressed. Because when we eat, our bodies lose that “Fight or Flight” syndrome and for the brief moments of digestion we’re at peace. So why not turn that around for our own benefit? When we exercise, our bodies are busy handling the physical stress, and hunger takes a back seat. When I run at lunch, it suppresses my appetite for an hour or two, allowing me to have a few snacks in the afternoon instead of one big meal. This works out pretty well. When I don’t run, I’m a ravenous fool and it’s a double whammy…no calories burned…more calories consumed?! Try using exercise to reduce your appetite.

  • High Fiber Foods: I know this topic has a way of weaving itself into a lot of my articles, but I keep finding ancillary benefits of foods high in fiber. They fill you up. They don’t have many calories. And they reduce the cholesterol levels in your bloodstream. This includes foods like fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, and oatbran. Look at the high-fiber foods to stop the hunger!

  • Low Glycemic Index: Foods that have a low glycemic index will slowly release their sugars so you don’t have a sugar rush – burnout – and desire for more cycle. This is how much of our youth is getting fat. Their diets are filled with sugary sodas, juices, and junk and the post sugar-rush letdown drives us all for more sugar…look at the foods that wreak the least havoc and save yourself from the appetite rollercoaster.

  • Don’t Starve Yourself: OK..this seems to go against the grain of the article, but it’s true! Not eating will cause us to eat more in the long run. If our bodies get zero nourishment, your body will reduce your metabolism as a survival precaution. And you will likely eat larger quantities when you get the chance which your body will store away for later – FAT?! It’s much more sensible to eat multiple small meals of good foods than it is to avoid eating all together. The smaller meals will keep your metabolism revved up, and the necessary nourishment coming for your workouts ;-).

Hunger is defined as “a strong desire or need for food”. And while we do need food, we can control our hunger and its impacts on our health by the types and timing of our meals and snacks. Eat smart!

Exercise of the Month:
Bicycle Crunches!

This exercise is a very productive ab exercise, as it works both the rectus abdominals (“washboard” or “6-pack”), and the oblique abdominals (sides). While on your back, place your hands behind your head and lift your torso slightly off the ground. Bring your feet 6 inches off the ground to start. Begin by pulling your left knee towards your right elbow, then straighten out your left leg and bring your right knee towards your left elbow. That is one repetition. The movement of your legs should be similar to peddling a bicycle. The movement of your elbows should be done by pulling your back off the ground, not by bending or straining your neck. Try 10-25 repetitions to start off with, depending on your ability. You want to stress your muscles with this exercise, but don’t take them to the point of exhaustion. It’s better to gradually increase repetitions over time than it is to do the maximum amount possible…followed by down-time due to over-fatigue or injury.

Sound Off!

If you have any feedback (positive or negative), success stories to share, or suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you and we take all feedback, suggestions...and yes, even criticism very seriously. We’ll use this information to improve our newsletter and The Fitness Motivator site to help you and others like you attain your fitness goals.

Encouragement to Succeed!

P.S. - Please feel free to forward this to a friend!

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